City squads ‘excited’ about sub-state

Both the Lawrence High and Free State High girls soccer teams have had seasons to forget.

Heading into Class 6A sub-state action tonight, the Lions and Firebirds managed to put up only five combined victories out of the 16 regular-season games each team played.

But that’s all in the past — or at least it should be if either club has second-round aspirations.

“I think the girls have pride in themselves and they want to show it,” LHS coach Jason Clark said of his Lions.

Echoed FSHS coach Jason Pendleton: “We’re excited. It’s a new season.”

Sixth-seeded LHS (3-13) will travel to Topeka to play No. 3 Washburn Rural (10-6) at 6 p.m., while No. 7 Free State (2-13-1) will play at No. 2 Manhattan (11-3-1) at 6:15 p.m.

The Lions already have faced the Junior Blues, falling 6-1 on April 15 during a hectic week that saw them also lose to Olathe North and Shawnee Mission Northwest. Lawrence has an opportunity to avenge one of a series of frustrating losses tonight.

“We have the game film, and we have to look through that,” Clark said, “and hopefully that gives us a little extra incentive — a little payback.”

Clark already has spent time breaking down the Junior Blues as well as the problems of his own team.

“Offensively, we gave up possessions at inopportune times,” he said.

One game still fresh in Clark’s mind is the Lions’ last regular-season game, a 6-2 loss at Shawnee Mission South. He said his team mainly lost because of costly mistakes.

“We competed for the entire game,” Clark said. “Obviously, we still made mistakes, and in the Sunflower League, if you make mistakes, the other team puts the ball in the net.”

The Lions will have to be mistake-free to advance against the Junior Blues.

Free State didn’t play Manhattan in the regular season, but Pendleton is well aware of the Indians and their capability.

“They are a perennial power out of the central region,” Pendleton said of Manhattan. “Year in and year out they are a top three team in our region.”

With only six upperclassmen, the Firebirds underwent a youth movement during the regular season. Pendleton now is ready for that youth to start to realize its potential — as well as the rest of the team.

“We are ready for everyone to come together and play as well as we can play,” Pendleton said. “If everyone can compete for the duration of the match, I think we definitely have a chance to be successful against Manhattan. … We’re a team that’s going to have contributions from everybody.”

Although Pendleton said “nobody else expects us to win,” he added the only expectations he has placed on his team are to play with effort and execution.

“We’re just looking for an opportunity to put it all together,” the coach said. “We’ll see what happens.”